SPONSORED – Traveling to new or old places is part of our pursuit of happiness (except maybe when we are traveling for work). We tend to try to make the moments last and maybe that’s why we collect the memories not only in our brains but especially in our little devices. I remember being a child, on family trips, carrying my big analogue camera with 35mm film. These photographs later became part of family albums and are pieces of the story of my life. Embarrassing moments, great landscapes and sunsets, a friend in a car, and even bad, blurry pictures of the starry sky. In the past, in typical hipster fashion, I’d even travel with a trendy Polaroid—something that was incredibly fun but so so so expensive.
For the last few years however, during my many trips around the world, I’ve been carrying around a big digital SLR camera (and several portable lenses) but I must confess that I’ve used it with less and less regularity. It’s not that I wasn’t taking photos; that’s not the point at all. I’d simply always pack my camera for a trip, and then end up leaving it in the suitcase choosing to go around with my iPhone for portability’s sake. And just two weeks ago, I let my big camera go. Pixter, a French photography company, provided me with a few of their top-performing smartphone camera lenses and accessories and suddenly taking photos was fun again!
But no matter how good the apps and software and filters get, sometimes you want to enjoy the art of taking photos again, explore the limits of your creativity and the beautiful places we inhabit. I remember trying to press myself against a wall to capture a skyline, without being able to get the photo I wanted. Or getting closer and closer to a small detail only to see a blurry image on my screen. This is part of the struggle of documenting your journey and your travels.
For those who wants to get better at taking and sharing pictures, not only of your daily life but also of your extraordinary adventures, these are some useful tips for travel and life in the age of Instagram. It’s how I curate my own personal Instagram feed (see it here).
How to Take Better Travel Instagram Photos
Having a good photo is not good enough, you have to make it available to people who share your passion and your interests. There are literally thousands of hashtags and many places or events have their own unique ones, often funny or silly and nonsensical unless you get the picture. By adding the location and tagging friends, you help these hashtags to do their work.
I am not talking only of selfies, which are great ways to share your life and your happy memories with others (or to simply instill FOMO in your friends). I am talking portraits, in general. A photo of your old aunt, or your best friend drinking coconut water… We are social beings and we love faces. And there’s a reason why the scientific evidence has proven that when you enter a room, the first thing your brains does is to scan the faces. However, portraits are not only about faces, there are great portraits of people in all positions, even from behind.
Copy the masters
See great photos by amazing photographers like Mapplethorpe or Robert Capa, or go and explore in the art books the works of Matisse or Picasso… and use that has an inspiration. Maybe that photo of your cocktail looks better with a macro lens (check out the accessories and lenses offered by Pixter) instead of the usual photo of a cocktail. Remember that exploring your creativity is a process of trial-and-error. Don’t aim for hearts; aim for mastery! And don’t forget to look at the work of other successful Instagrammers.
Instagram is a social network and nobody is going to explore your feed only because you are wonderful and exist in this world. You have to be nice and kind and appreciate what others share. While some people cheat with software that automatically likes and comments of other’s people post, the original, sincere, honesty commentary is frequently more effective.
Well, while Instagram offers many filters and there are apps to make the photos better, like changing the contrast and the brightness… Some effects are better with a true and proper lens. Pixter, a company out of France, produces a variety of different lenses that are easily attached to your phone and instantly improve your photos. I used four different lenses over the past month and got some great videos, selfies and ‘grams from using the lenses on both the front-facing and back cameras on my iPhone 6 Plus. The Pixter Super Fisheye works better than the fisheye filters or effects of many apps, because the effect isn’t digitally created but is optical. Pixter lenses make a great Instagram investment because they’re easy to carry, easy to travel with and instantly will enhance your Instagram style.
Check out the available Pixter lenses on their official website. Lenses start at just $34.90 including tax. My favorite is the Pixter Wide Angle Pro Lens which allows you capture more in the frame—perfect for the epic selfie!
Don’t let geography limit you
You are broke, okay, I get it. I’ve been in similar situations too (many times, way too frequently), unable to move around due to work or lack of time or money or whatever. But you can’t use geography as an excuse. The very street you’re in every single day, in your own neighborhood, offers great chances for new, creative photography. Explore it. But if you have the means, well… travel. As far as you can. Nothing awakes the attention of Instagrammers more than a diverse and well-traveled feed.
This is one of the frequent rookie mistakes; some people post a photo every five seconds. And at the end, all your photos are ignored, because nobody likes an oversharer. It’s like that story of the kid who cried wolf. Select your best picture and share that one, use accessories (a telephoto lens, maybe) or a filter… and good hashtags… and share… and then wait a couple of hours before you share something again. Do you know how many photos are uploaded to Instagram every hour of every day? Millions!
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Our modern family and vacation albums are online, accessible on many devices, and the best part? We share it all live, in the moment. That’s the true beauty of Instagram—and while sometimes the social media can feel daunting, it’s just a matter of knowing best how to use it…and how to still take great photos.
Note: This post was sponsored in part by Pixter, for which I received some lenses for review, but all opinions and recommendations are always my own.
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‘Love this post Adam. I’m not on Instragram myself, and have no plans to either. Ho! Ho! But your tips are still enormously useful!
I hardly use my “normal” camera these days, and just use my iPhone 6. Very handy, always with me, and most comfortable!
p.s. Re-geography. I take a lot of my nature shots in my own garden! :D
I get the same problem when traveling with a big camera. It usually ends up staying in my luggage. It’ll be out the first day or two then stay inside. That’s also why I got a phone lens.
Wow! what an amazing tool. Very informative and useful.Thanks a ton for sharing.
Hey, this looks like an amazing accessory to a phone camera. Thanks for sharing.
Hey Adam, thanks for a wonderful list of ways to make Instagram photos pop out. I like how you think in terms of being unique and experimental with the photos and not just basing them on the usual themes. I have been wanting to get some lenses for my phone and Pixter looks like an accessory I would give a go.